Progress in combating aeolian desertification (land degradation resulting from wind erosion) has been achieved in an agro-pastoral ecotone of northern China since the mid-1980s. This paper reviews three common measures used to combat and control aeolian desertification in such regions. In addition, it introduces a case study on the recovery of a degraded semi-arid ecosystem to provide regional lessons and support theoretical and practical approaches to desertification prevention and reversal on a global scale. On the basis of the analysis and evaluation of three kinds of typical measures and one regional scale case, this study shows that human-caused aeolian desertified land can be rehabilitated. Although the technologies and management of combating aeolian desertification in an agro-pastoral ecotone of northern China still need further improvement through more experimentation and practical application in the future, the experience gained to date contains important lessons for the recovery of degraded land on a global scale. Copyright © 2013 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.